37th Yukon Quest starts in Fairbanks for 1,000-mile trek to Whitehorse

Richie Beattie and his team leave the start chute of the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 1. Beattie was the first of 15 mushers in this year’s race to hit the trail. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Brent Sass and his handlers prepare for the start of the 2020 Yukon Quest at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 1. Sass, the 2019 winner, was the last to start after drawing bib 15. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Jason Campeau of Rocky Mountain House, Alta., starts the 2020 Yukon Quest at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 1. Campeau is back in the race after his 2018 Quest was cut short following an accident. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Three-time Yukon Quest Winner leaves the start chute at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 1. Moore and his team are pulling two daughters and four grandchildren rather than the typical solo Quest Guest to start the race. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Denis Tremblay works to reattach a line to his lead dogs after traveling just metres from the start line of the Yukon Quest at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 1. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Torsten Kohnert’s lead dogs wait patiently for the start of the Yukon Quest at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 1. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Dave Dalton waves to the crowd as he starts his 30th Yukon Quest at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 1. Dalton ran his first Yukon Quest in 1988. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Mac and Indy lead the way for Michelle Phillips as she begins the Yukon Quest at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 1. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Michelle Phillips waves to the crowd at the start of the Yukon Quest at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 1. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Rob Cooke starts the Yukon Quest at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 1. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Brent Sass’s team digs in to start the 2020 Yukon Quest at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Feb. 1. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

FAIRBANKS, ALASKA

The 37th Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race is officially underway as all 15 mushers began the 1,600-kilometre journey from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Whitehorse.

Temperatures at the startline at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center hovered around -30 C, a welcome change from last year’s -40 C start in Whitehorse, as teams began to leave at 11 a.m. sharp local time.

First onto the trail was veteran musher Richie Beattie who drew bib one.

The first Canadian on the trail was Jason Campeau of Rocky Mountain House, Alta., who started third.

Yukoners Michelle Phillips and Rob Cooke started 11th and 12th.

Prior to the race, both mushers spoke to the News in the dog yard.

Cooke said his team is looking good.

“The team are good. We’ve got a bunch of young dogs — four dogs that have not finished the Quest before and 10 dogs who’ve finished the Quest,” said Cooke. “I don’t have my super experienced leaders with me, they’ve retired, but it’s going to be really exciting to see how the other dogs do.”

Phillips said she was nervous like usual before the race.

“I get pretty nervous before races so I’m feeling anxious and like I’m going to throw up, but I’ll be fine once I get out there,” said Phillips with a smile.

Her team has 12 1,000-mile veterans and two rookies.

“(It’s) a pretty experienced team — a lot of depth,” said Phillips. “(It’s) a nice group of dogs.”

Last year’s winner Brent Sass was last to hit the trail after drawing bib 15.

The first checkpoint of the race is in Two Rivers, Alaska, approximately 73 miles or 117 km from the start.

The Yukon Quest 300 field of 18 mushers will take to the trail from the same start location at 3 p.m. local time.

In the 300-mile race, Quest veteran Nathaniel Hamlyn will start seventh, followed by American Madeline Rubida with a team of dogs from Tagish Lake Kennel. Whitehorse’s Claudia Wickert will start 17th.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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